Four years ago, Iowa’s independents had to decide whether to participate in a competitive Republican contest, or an equally dramatic Democratic faceoff. Not this year. That was reflected in the makeup of tonight’s caucuses; the percentage of independents may have more than doubled, from 13% four years ago to 27% in early entrance polls - and 41% of the voters who participated tonight were attending their very first GOP caucus.
The wave of independents may have shifted the ideological needle closer to the center: the percentage of caucus-goers who describe themselves as moderate or liberal has jumped from 12% in 2008 to 20%. But the percentage who call themselves very conservative hasn’t budged: 46% use that description – virtually identical to the 45% who answered that way four years ago.
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